Strategies for increasing the use of Welsh language by learners at all levels

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Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Seren Iaith initiative challenges learners’ attitudes towards the use of the Welsh language and promotes its use socially and academically.

Number of learners: 21,000
Age range: 16+
Date of inspection: February 2017

Brief contextual information about provider/partnership

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai (GLlM) is a further education (FE) college formed in 2012 through mergers between Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Coleg Menai.  The Grŵp has approximately 21,000 learners, of whom 6,000 study full time programmes delivered on 13 campuses across the counties of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd.  Communities served by GLIM range from areas with the highest Welsh speaking populations in Wales (Caernarfon, 87%) to those in Conwy and Denbighshire where fewer than 20% of the population speak Welsh. 

Context and background to excellent/sector-leading practice

The college provides an extensive and broad range of effective Welsh-medium and bilingual provision. The college leads nationally through its very effective Sgiliaith provision that supports bilingualism across the FE sector.  GLlM operates a comprehensive Welsh language strategy and Welsh language scheme that sets challenging targets which supports learners’ progress during their study. 

The recently introduced Seren Iaith is an innovative and sector-leading initiative that challenges learners’ attitudes towards the use of the Welsh language and promotes the social and academic use of Welsh. As a result, an increasing number of learners undertake learning and assessment using Welsh.

The Grŵp’s approach is based on coherent curriculum planning to enable an increase in the resources and the number of courses where bilingual-medium learning is available.  All learners who have undertaken GCSE Welsh first language undertake the Welsh Essential Skills Toolkit (WEST) literacy assessment in Welsh.  This enables tutors to accurately plan to meet the linguistic needs of these learners and sets targets for learners to improve their Welsh literacy skills.  The staff are supported through the Sgiliaith team, which supports bilingualism across the FE sector and is located at Coleg Meirion Dwyfor within the Grŵp. 

The above approach identified the need to increase the use of Welsh outside the classroom and in a social context.  As a consequence the Seren Iaith initiative has been developed to increase the social use of the Welsh and raise awareness of the cultural aspects and opportunities of the language.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as excellent/sector-leading practice

The aim of the Seren Iaith Programme is to assess and increase the current social use of the Welsh language amongst learners and to measure attitudes towards the language.  Learners undertake a Seren Iaith survey at the start of their course.  The survey is made up of ten statements to which learners respond by indicating the level at which they agree or disagree with those statements.  A tutorial programme supported by high quality interactive resources is then used to encourage learners to use the language on an informal and social basis.  The result is that learners are much more aware of their Welsh culture and have a much wider appreciation as to the relevance and use of the Welsh language.  Learners are actively encouraged to develop their Welsh language skills and are aware of the importance of Welsh language skills in the workplace.

Further developments are based on developing support materials and activities that directly underpin the statements e.g. materials that encourage learners to use the Welsh language on social media.

What impact has this work had on the quality of provision and learners’ standards

The Seren Iaith gives an immediate measure of the impact of activities that the learner has undertaken during the academic year to increase and continue the use of the Welsh language in their college life.

The Seren Iaith initiative has contributed to success rates achieved by Welsh speaking learners that are three percentage points higher than the Grŵp average.  Learners undertaking studies in a bilingual setting also show high levels of ability in translanguaging (trawsieithu, or the use of different languages together) during teaching sessions.  The majority of learners who have undertaken the Seren Iaith have an increased understanding of the importance of bilingual skills in gaining employment.